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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics


Black Lives Matter Protesters

Black Lives Matter Protesters

Q&A With Anita Varma About Journalism That Builds Solidarity

Anita Varma, assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics and Social Sector Ethics, participates in a Q&A with Humanitarian News Research Network.

In this Q&A, Humanitarian News Research Network interviews Dr. Anita Varma, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, on how a solidarity approach applies to protest coverage & pandemic coverage. Varma argues that journalism generating solidarity (as opposed to merely empathy) is the most appropriate when reporting about crises and social injustice.

"I argue that solidarity should be the priority for journalists. The downside of an empathy approach is that social psychology has shown for decades that people have a finite capacity to empathize. Once they’ve spent this capacity, they often become exhausted, disillusioned, and may begin to blame the victim to find a way to reconcile distressing representations with a need to emotionally regulate. This is worrisome when it comes to coverage of marginalized communities, since victim-blaming can quickly worsen matters. With a solidarity approach, journalism is better positioned to present prospects for change grounded in lived experiences, and there’s no evidence that solidarity fatigues audiences the way empathy does."


Anita Varma, assistant director of Journalism & Media Ethics and Social Sector Ethics, interviewed by Humanitarian News Research Network.


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